The River - Vessels Into White Tides

Somehow, I have always loved doom metal. I have always considered it to be the basis of metal music. Going deeper in my self-analysis, the first reason is Black Sabbath and the magic they created especially in their 1st period (1969-1978). Then it would surely be Lee Dorian's (sudden?) change from the Grindcore of Napalm Death to the obscure and psychedelic doom fields of Cathedral and especially their life-companion for me album "Forest Of Equilibrium" (1991).

The River come from the city of Croydon, South London, England - UK. They were formed at the end of the millenium (1999) and released a demo before 2000. They have been active since through the 00's and the soon ending 10's and "Vessels Into White Tides" is their 3rd full length album, a decade after its predecessor "In Situ" (2009).

With the exception of their early demos, The River have preferred the use of female vocals in their whole career. "Vessels Into White Tides" signifies a new beginning for the band with the coming of Jenny Newton on Vocals (she also performs guitars, strings and percussion).

"Vessels Into White Tides" is divided in 5 tracks. The band doesn't try to fit to any of the mainstream requirements. On the contrary, they artistically leave their ideas to flow free, to be shaped, structured and finally completed to songs. As a result their songs length varies from less than 5 minutes to more than 15 without being boring or repeated.

The opening track 'Vessels' immediately shows the band's intentions. Doom atmosphere with clear melodies and Jenny Newton's vocals which are haunting. With references to bands like early Theatre Of Tragedy (up to 1998's "Aegis"), The Third And The Mortal (and especially their "Sorrow" 1994 EP and "Tears Laid In Earth" 1994 full length), Jenny Newton's vocals are mind and soul travelling. I cannot help but stare at the photograph of the cover, which features no logo or album title, and be transferred to the early 90's and mystical places with secret forests and lakes awaiting for the fairies (that still wear boots). Jenny's vocals are mesmerizingly depressive, but they still leave a window of hope open. I would dare call them dark romantic vocals. I am sure that goth fans will like Jenny's vocals, as I also know that many goth fans are also doom metal fans. (As I wrote before doom is a basis).

The River's musical themes come in a great variety of styles in a successful and interesting attempt to underline the emotions of different parts of their songs accordingly. In some parts of their songs you will face their heavy and suffocating doom riffs that will remind you of doom titans like Disembowelment and Thergothon, like for example in the 12th minute of 'Into White'. In other parts of their songs you will come across weird/folkish but always clear and ethereal acoustic melodies which seem to be influenced from bands like Katatonia, The Cure or Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds.

At this point, I must state that there is a strong 80's influence in The River's work. Themes like the closing theme of the aforementioned song 'Into White' could have been in a This Mortal Coil album or in some of the 4AD releases. There is a strong connection of The River's sound with the 80's dark wave/death wave scene and with early alternative/indie from late 80's-early to mid 90's.

Songs like 'Open' have an acoustic, almost folk drive. The orchestration/strings are deeply emotional and tearful. This song is for sure influenced by the Canadian musician, composer, harpist, accordionist, and pianist Loreena McKennitt. To those unfamiliar with Loreena McKennitt's work, please try to listen her world music with Celtic and Middle Eastern themes. It is therapeutic, soothing and mind-healing.

Back to The River review, in 'Passing' the riffing reminded me of The Smashing Pumpkins era "Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness" (1995). There is generally a 90's indie/alternative sound in the guitars of "Passing", which on the one hand confirms what I said earlier about The River's sound connection with the alternative/indie 90's and on the other hand increases the importance of doom metal in shaping a big part of modern music.

The song 'Tides' gives out the same feeling. The opening riff resembles with some works by the band Low or the "Wish" era of The Cure; you know, the type of guitar structured music with an indie/alternative feeling, with very emotional orchestration from the synths, heartbreaking melodies and a huge sense of loss coming out all the way, a loss that sounds soothing and promising for better days that still never come. Vulnerable and fragile.

To sum up my review, The River build their sound on a steady doom metal basis. They use acoustic parts and have a great sense of melody and harmony. Filtering a variety of influences from folk/rock to the 90's indie/alternative, all draped in a dreamy and melancholic suit, they come up with a very interesting result. Their music is very emotional, dark romantic and at parts even heartbreaking. Nevertheless, there is always a ray of light. If you like the 90's sound of Theatre of Tragedy and The 3rd and the Mortal and you also like ethereal female vocals, you will definitely not regret buying "Vessels Into White Tides".


1. Vessels
2. Into White
3. Open
4. Passing
5. Tides